5 things your architect won’t tell you

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An architect at work
An architect at work

Bringing in the right architect can mean the difference between dream home and disaster area; especially when one puts into consideration the things your architect will not tell you. To ensure the former, first make sure your architect is licensed-and not just someone with an education or background in architecture.

Once the blueprint’s done, I’m outta here.

The design phase of a home takes an average of about a month, depending on how often the architect and clients can meet to discuss plans. Once construction begins, a good architect should visit periodically to make sure that the building is adhering to the design and to make sure no corners are being cut. Make certain that your contract spells out how often your architect will reappear once construction begins. Another way to keep the architect coming back is to structure the payment plan using time as an incentive: Pay a third of the fee up front, another third when most of the documents are done and the last third when construction is at least substantially complete.

 

If I can’t read your mind, I’ll just design things my way.

While you can get a good sense of an architect’s sensibilities looking at his past projects, it’s up to you to make sure which parts of his style do and don’t surface in your home. To help avoid surprises, talk early on and in as much detail as you can about what you visualize.

I see your budget as an opening bid and my payment plan may take advantage of you

Whatever you think your budget is, say it’s 10 to 20% lower. Things happen, such as small building glitches, “or you may change your mind” about details or finishes along the way. Such cases often end up with the client having to spend above their budget limit.

Also read: Register with the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK)

On the other hand, once you decide that you like an architect’s basic ideas, you should sign a contract to get the terms in writing. Most architectural associations have a template contract that many architects use, and it covers the size, or “scope,” of the project; the homeowner’s budget; a time frame for the project; and a payment schedule.

My drawings aren’t really builder-ready.

Before you can start shopping for a contractor, you’ll need your architect’s finished drawings so contractors can bid on them   The problem comes in an architect’s lack of construction expertise, but it can also be the result of the homeowner’s not knowing what kinds of drawings to ask for. Unless you’re doing a very small project, be sure to ask for “construction-level” or “builder” drawings. These should also include “specifications,” which describe finishes and quality of workmanship.

Your contractor and I have communication issues.

At the extremes, architects are in this for the aesthetics while contractors and builders are more concerned with logistics, so it’s only natural that tension can arise between the two — or, even worse, they may just not be interested in dealing with each other. Problems may arise because the contractor couldn’t translate the architect’s plans. To get off to a secure start, try have the architect actually meet (the prospective contractor) before signing on

 

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